The burden of the ministry is heavy enough without adding the yoke of unbiblical expectations. To do so will simply lead to heartache for pastors and congregations alike. It’s Jesus who defines the terms of the ministry and sets the expectations.
Rumor has it William Shakespeare once said: “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” I don’t actually know if he said it, but things always sound better when you slap a reputable name on them. Regardless, there’s a nugget of truth no matter who said it. And it’s a nugget of truth that many of us have probably learned in nearly every relationship of life – expectations can be the source of a lot of trouble.
This is true in the pastoral relationship. Pastors have expectations for themselves and other members in the church have expectations for the pastor’s ministry, too. Without exaggeration, it seems almost everyone in the church has an opinion about what a pastor should or shouldn’t be doing. By itself that isn’t a bad thing. I think pastors should have high expectations for themselves. The ministry is important and what we expect from ourselves reflects the value we place on it. It’s also good for congregations to have expectations because they have the responsibility to encourage their pastor to fulfill the ministry. It’s not expectations that are problematic. It’s unbiblical expectations that are.
As a pastor and a friend of many other pastors, I know that these unbiblical expectations can easily creep into the ministry and at other times they break into it like a tidal wave. To be clear, this isn’t a blame game. Yes, congregations can have unrealistic expectations of their pastor. But, and maybe even sometimes more often, pastors impose unbiblical expectations on themselves. Admittedly, sometimes it’s nice to hear: “That’s not your responsibility.” So, what are some patterns I see of these unbiblical expectations? Here’s my top-ten list in no particular order:
Pastors Aren’t Necessary
Jesus has ordered his church in such a way where pastors are necessary. We’re told that they’re part of his ascension gift to the church (Ephesians 4:11), they serve a vital part of the body (Romans 12:6), they have a role in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), and it’s expected that they carry out the ministry of preaching which is central to the church’s ministry (Romans 10:14-17 and 2 Timothy 2:2). If Christ thinks pastors are necessary we need to as well.
Pastors Do Charity Work
Like most people who have a job, earn money, and expect a paycheck at the end of the week, the Bible says a pastor deserves his wages (1 Timothy 5:17). In fact, Paul goes as far as to write and say that Jesus commands that pastors be paid: “In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). Pastors aren’t paid volunteers or intended to live off of charity. Paying a pastor is actually a matter of obedience to Jesus, and being a pastor is a way to earn your living.
Pastors Call All the Shots
Whether a pastor likes it or not, he’s generally the public face of the church’s leadership and even the congregation. But in a biblically modeled church he’s not on top. Rather, in the New Testament, churches are to be led by a plurality of elders (Titus 1:5) who have an equal say in the decisions that are made (see Acts 15:6) and in the shepherding (Acts 20:28). Pastors don’t make all the decisions. Their voice is an equal one among others and responsibility in the church is shared with every elder.